Fodor’s Expert Review
The Discovery Princess is a brand-new ship fashioned in a classic manner, with boatloads of brass trim, gold accents, and retro internet connectivity (and an app that is fussy, at best). At the same time, the Ocean Medallion wearables are a significant technological leap forward for the cruise and travel industry at large, allowing passengers to conveniently access their staterooms, charge drinks and gifts, and even make purchases at some shops in ports. Guests can also choose to wear the medallion, made from recycled ocean plastic garbage, in the form of a watch or bracelet. Currently enjoying her maiden Alaska season at full capacity, the Discovery can feel crowded while waiting for midship elevators, burgers and fries from Salty Dog poolside, and when squeezing through some tight hallways, but it’s a lovely ship with a wonderful crew, delicious food, and stellar entertainment.
WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW
What to expect on board
Staterooms & Cabins
While the staterooms are noticeably smaller than you might expect, with basic balcony rooms featuring just a desk with a single chair, meaning at least one member of a couple is sitting on the bed when spending time in the room, the 2-inch pillow-top mattress and soft duvet are heavenly and help ensure some of the best rest at sea. The vast majority of the 1,830 cabins do have balconies, with only 340 interior cabins and a total of 8 with just an ocean view window, affording nearly every guest private moments with the ocean and glorious sunsets at sea. For those with deeper pockets, a pair of Sky Suites are available with massive wrap-around balconies (the largest in the Princess fleet). One hundred of the staterooms are connecting, with balconies that connect as well. All cabins have an HDTV, USB outlets in side table lamps, and a large closet.
The Discovery Princess offers 40 staterooms that provide full wheelchair-turning radius, roll-in showers with grab bars, fold-down bench seat, an easy-access closet, and an accessible desk. Guest’s wanting to make specific requests for accommodations on board the Discovery Princess can email the Princess Access Office at [email protected] to make special arrangements to ensure a perfect holiday at sea no matter what their needs are.
Food & Drink
Whereas on some cruise lines, the inclination may be to stick to complimentary dining options for budgetary reasons, Discovery Princess makes enjoying dinners in upscale specialty restaurants affordable and thoroughly delicious. To wit: Crown Grill’s seafood feast comes with dessert (go for the salted caramel creme bruleé cheesecake) and only costs $29, making it one of the best bargains at sea. And two plates from The Salty Dog Gastropub’s elevated bar menu, including lobster mac-n-cheese, grilled asparagus and halloumi, short rib poutine, and a Beyond burger, plus a dessert can be had for $18. The casual cuisine, included in the cruise, are top quality too, most notably the pizza at Slices or made-to-order personal pies and antipasto at GiGis, along with the brownies and other sweets at The Pastry Shop.
Two main dining rooms handle the all-inclusive dinner crowd while a fine buffet features an excellent salad bar, entrees such as shrimp curries, fish and chips, prime rib, freshly grilled veggies, potstickers, and so much more. One of the coolest and most innovative food features onboard Discovery Princess is the ability to order food and beverages, through the app, to nearly anywhere on the ship, so you can enjoy guacamole and tortilla chips poolside and nosh on personal pizzas as you strategize how to beat your opponent at that classic card game, Uno.
If it seems as though there are more bars and lounges than restaurants on board Discovery Princess, that’s because that’s nearly true. What’s more: Because of the ability to order food and have it delivered like an at-sea GrubHub, to just about anywhere on the ship, every bar and lounge can become your own personal dining destination. Sip delicious margaritas in glasses rimmed with salt at Bellini’s, overlooking the Piazza—prime spot for live music listening and people watching—have a cold beer while relaxing poolside at the Seaview Bar, or enjoy an affordable glass of wine seated in a plush red velvet chair at Crooners Bar as a piano player tickles the ivories.
The entertainment on board is not to be missed, especially the Rock Opera and magician in the Princess Theater. Nightly jazz in Take Five, piano players, singer-songwriters, a string quartet, and the versatile band Meridian performing tributes to ABBA, The Beatles, country music, and the 1980s in the cool and comfortable Vista Lounge round out a well-to-do music program. Pools and hot tubs offer relaxation, and an adults-only deck is where you’ll find some serenity during your cruise. You will not, however, find water slides, roller coasters, or any of the modern thrills of the super-sized ships. Instead, movies under the stars come with buttery popcorn—red flannel blankets come in handy on nights cruising Alaska’s glaciers and fjords.
Sports court with basketballs, a jogging track, and a very basic miniature mini golf course round out the outside activities waiting to be discovered. Dog lovers won’t want to miss the Puppies on Princess event when sled dog pups are brought on board in Skagway during Alaska itineraries! The ubiquitous cruise ship casino is another option.
Spa & Fitness
Discovery features the fleet’s largest-ever thermal suite in The Enclave, inside the Lotus Spa. This luxuriously calm area is where guests will find a hydro-therapy pool complete with a rain shower, heated stone beds for lounging, waterbeds fit to soothe what ails them, a Turkish-style steam bath, aromatic steam chamber, and the Laconium, a heated, dry chamber. Day passes are available for an extra charge. Of course, the spa itself offers the classics too, from massages to facials, nail care, to hair salon services.
There are a total of four pools and 10 hot tubs on board this Discovery Princess. Head to The Sanctuary, an exclusive adults-only area for relaxation and spa services at the top and front of the ship. Like The Enclave inside the spa, access to this area with lounge chairs and cabanas carries an extra fee.
A robust fitness room with sweeping sea views includes free weights, treadmills, cycling bikes, and seminars and consultations helping passengers learn how to achieve core strength, stretch properly, walk with comfort, or try a Zumba class.
Key cruising tips
Health & Safety
All guests eligible to be vaccinated must be fully vaccinated with all initial doses administered at least 14 days prior to sailing. All guests ages 2 and over must present a negative result from a Covid-19 test administered within two days of boarding.
Starting in May 2022, the Discovery Princess began sailing at full capacity while cruising in Alaska, with the buffets back to fully self-service.
Occurring twice per week onboard the Discovery Princess, formal evenings encourage a more upscale attire at dinner, but black tie has long been retired. Still, many passengers take this opportunity to put on their Sunday best, have their photos taken by the professionals on board, and celebrate special occasions in a way that often gets forsaken back at home. While nice jeans, a sport coat or collared shirt, and good shoes will suffice for men, and similar for women, it’s best to leave the shorts, tank tops, and flip flops for poolside dining on these evenings.
Because there isn’t an abundance of deck-wide fun for kids, the Discovery Princess leans heavily on its complimentary onboard camp programs to keep younger guests happy, occupied, and entertained while mom, dad, and grandparents enjoy the sights, sips, and sounds of the ship. A trio of age-appropriate camps allow junior cruisers to make friends and memories, while building rockets and model roller coasters, playing Skee-ball, participating in treasure hunts, or showing off their skills during a talent show. Teens have their own Beach House area with mocktails, video game tournaments, dodgeball competitions, and red carpet dance parties.
Cruises lines understand that for many people, a vacation at sea is a bucket list item. Discovery Princess’ staff understand the importance of making the most of the trip for every single guest. Service across the board is exemplary. Cabin attendants, bartenders, and entertainers aboard the ship seem determined to deliver service with a smile. Requests for additional pillows, extra towels, and even a few more shrimp for that pasta dish you love so much, are accommodated graciously.
Pre-paid gratuities mean each guest will be settled up before boarding but many cruisers keep cash on hand to give extra tips for extra special service during their vacation. From the cabin attendant to that one bartender who always make the margaritas just the way a guest wanted, these additional tips aren’t required but go a long way toward keeping cruise ship crew happy, motivated, and sustained, especially after a difficult couple of years.